My wife and I like to escape the rigors of reality every now and then by running off to one of the casino towns in the Colorado mountains. It is always a pleasant drive to these former mining towns; as we wind in and out of endless alpine splendor. There is a certain serenity that comes with reconnecting ourselves to nature, even if it is through the windshield of a moving vehicle. It gives us time to pause, to reflect, and to remember what is truly important in life. In short, it is the ultimate form of relaxation.
Our Zen-like state of mind is then shattered as we enter our adult Disneyland. The subdued lighting is punctuated by an endless stream of neon. The buzz of the patrons scurrying from gambling tables to slot machines is like the drone of a beehive. We see our eager faces reflected on the shiny surfaces of electronic “one-armed bandits.” Our senses are heightened by the rings of “chink-chink-chink” as payoffs are awarded. Yes, coin-operated slot machines have fallen by the wayside, but intrepid manufacturers now furnish a synthesized version of the metallic payout!
My lovely spouse and I have a standing agreement, reaffirmed before we ever cross the portal into the land of “one bet away from instant wealth.” We never bring more money to wager than we are willing to lose completely. A casino is a business proposition by nature. Visit Las Vegas, spend sometime gazing at the modern monoliths that have been erected. You can enjoy pirate battles with sinking ships, view a water fountain spectacle complete with lighting and music, and even stand next to a modern pyramid fabricated of steel and black glass. These monuments came about because all casinos are profitable!
A casino typically has to payout 97% of what it takes in. That translates into a raw profit margin of 3%. The average Sin City casino has 23,000 patrons per day. If they each wager only $20 while they are there, that is a daily margin of about $13,000. Extend that over one year and you suddenly have a business with a $5 million raw profit.
I love sitting next to the demure little old lady who suddenly hits the jackpot on the penny slots. She is the one who has her lucky stuffed animal sitting up on the machine, rubs the screen of the console as if she possesses mystical powers that will affect the electronic reels, chain smokes Camels, and downs a steady stream of Bloody Marys. Assume for a moment that her jackpot amount is $970. The casino had to take in $1,000 to cover her payout. If the average customer bets $20 while on the premises, fifty people had to lose all of their money to payoff “Granny.” In short, the vast majority must lose so that the overwhelming minority can win.
Life is another form of the “one-armed bandit.” We start off our day filled with eager anticipation. Today is the day when we are going to hit the jackpot! We are armed with all of our superstitious relics and beliefs. We know that the higher denomination machines are looser in their payouts. We are seated near the junction of two major aisles, since the casino wants everyone that walks by to see you getting your payout. You are now the master of your own destiny, about to taste the sweet nectar of being a winner!
There is a curious thing about any casino. Did you ever notice that there is rarely a window to be found? Good luck finding a clock hanging on any of its walls. These bastions of capitalist endeavor want you to lose all track of time. They want you safely confined within their plush prison until you give them the 97% they are entitled to. A massive computer system resides in the basement, running the random algorithms that will determine the next lucky jackpot winner. It is all a matter of pure chance!
Yes, it is tempting for each of us to seek the shortcut to success, financial or otherwise. At times we surrender ourselves to fate as we seek that life-altering payout. But even a professional gambler will reveal that you have to walk away when the slot machine goes cold. Fate can alter lives, but in the end you are the only one who truly can master your life and the success that comes with it.